Friday, 16 December 2011

the carrot girl...

last friday marked my 30th lesson in horse riding and sad to say, i'm still in the red level, which is the beginner level. actually my coach said that normally, they will recommend the students to take their test to advance to the next level (yellow) after 25 lessons and actually he did mention to me about my test, but then it's either he's forgotten about it or he felt that i'm not ready to advance yet.

actually, i don't really care about doing the test also lar. i was asking the coach if i can advance to yellow without taking the test, like what N and i used to do in our ice-skating classes, but he said no. also, i wanna take things slowly and take the test when i'm truly ready. my coach said my posture and control is good, just sometimes i'm too soft with the horses (coz i refused to whip them hard!), which made them stubborn and refused to do what i asked them to do.

so far, i've mastered the posting trot, sitting trot, jump position and am learning the canter. some days i can do the canter quite beautifully, but some days i suck at it. it all depends on the horse i get for that day.

anyway, i'm loving my lessons and am so glad that i took it up. the horses are amazing! they've very intuitive in a lot of aspects. i guess they all know that i'm soft-hearted and a little afraid of them, so they tend to be quite stubborn and know they can bully me! :(

on one of my favourite horses (i have a few fav, actually), brownie/randolf. i'm still unsure about his name coz he's  new at the school and the grooms are confused with his name. one groom is telling me this is brownie, but my coach said randolf! =_='''

the horses know their own name, even though they don't live like pets and are always surrounded by so many other horses. i found this out one day after my lesson when i went to give the horse i rode a carrot treat, something i've taken a habit of doing. they were all tied up in a row and i can't recognize any of them (they all look the same, ok?). so i asked the groom there, "which is denver?" but before the groom gave his answer, one horse raised his head and looked up at me, and i knew that's him! :)

most horses who've been in the riding school also know the commands already, so sometimes, they react more to the instructions of the coach than to the riders. when we ride, the coach will be standing in the middle and give us riders instructions. start trotting, trot faster, change direction, canter, walk etc... sometimes, when the coach said these things, even before we have time to react, the horses are already doing them! hahaha... but most horses who've been in a riding school for a long time will develop attitude problems. i guess it's from always being ridden by beginners, who don't know how to handle and control them.

that's one reason why i like to ride brownie/randalf so much. he's still new at the school, so he's very responsive. i just need to give a small pull on the reins to make him stop, go to the left or right, a little kick to make him go faster or to start canter etc. some of the other horses can get really stubborn and then we'll need to use the whip on them, which i really hate!

who wants a carrot? this is safaj, by the way...

i think when the horses talk to each other, they'd probably refer to me as "carrot girl". coz after a few times of bringing carrots to the horses, they seem to know my routine. so now every time i appear at the back, all of them will look up at me expectantly! some would even nicker at me! i have to hide the carrot behind me or in my jacket when i walk past them to the horse i wanted to feed and say, "no, not for you today!"

i finally got a pic of me taken while on a horse!

yeah, the weather in dubai is getting colder. and as i always go for my lessons at night, the night air can get really chilly, sometimes going as low as 14-16 deg C! that's why i was dressed the way i am in the photo above. but the thing is, after the lesson start, i will start getting hot and sweaty! so it's a dilemma: to wear a jacket or not?

maybe a waistcoat over a thin long-sleeved t-shirt would be better?

but i still feel cold before the lesson, and hot and sweaty during lesson! maybe it's time to go get proper riding attire for the cold weather? anyway, i wear the shorts over my breaches during the journey to and from the school coz wearing just the tight-fitting breaches on public transport is just too weird, not to mention all those mata keranjang men of certain nationalities!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

uae 40th national day celebration

the uae national day falls on 2nd dec every year, and this year marks the 40th anniversary of the union of the 7 neighbouring emirates. here in dubai, with nearly 80% of the people being foreigners, you’d think no one would really care. that’s what i thought so too, when i first came last year. but how wrong i was, coz nearing the date, every other person can be seen donning the uae flag colours (black, red, white and green). kids can be seen wearing dresses and clothes that resembled the flag, girls will be wearing hairbands and bangles in the 4 colours, boys will have the 4 coloured scarves around their neck, schools will have special activities to commemorate the day… and there will be many activities happening leading up to the date, and this year being the 40th anniversary, the celebration was even massive.

someone in my facebook shared a link to a celebration that involves releasing floating lanterns (also known as kong ming lantern to the chinese) or sky lamps, to the sky at night. these lanterns are banned in m’sia, so i’ve never had the chance to release one before, even though many of my friends have done it illegally. also, see this promo video for the event:

doesn’t it reminds you of the animation “tangled”? so i was determined to go! :P

tangled-still-2 see, so pretty!

P1090820 the event was held in a horseracing racecourse… my first time in a racecourse! anyway, we were very early, which explains the empty seats…

P1090827the actual event started at about 6pm, with some traditional arabic dance…

P1090824 then the hot-air balloons started coming in… see what i told you, the ang-moh girl in the basket is obviously not a local here, but so gung-ho in waving the uae flag…

P1090825preparing the balloons…

P1090828  we realized our mistake of choosing an aisle seat, coz it got really packed and there weren’t enough seats in the grandstand. so people started standing at the railing right in front of us! luckily later on there were event personnel who went around asking people to move

P1090835 at around 7pm, they started inflating the balloons… this huge one was a gift to uae (didn’t really pay attention to the announcer, so didn’t hear WHO the gift was from), flew in directly from US. it’s in the shape of a giant birthday cake

P1090839then the rest of the balloons were inflated, with air being blown in using giant fans…

P1090845 then hot air was used to make the balloons stand…

P1090862then they switched off all the lights and each balloon took turns puffing the fire, so that there’s a blinking effect…

P1090866 people and cars were used as anchor…

P1090869 after about 30 min, they started to deflate the balloons… so much work for just a 30 min display??

387396_10150449927993287_588278286_8384746_1128639676_nwe got free lanterns!

while the hot-air balloon display was going on, i saw around me many people holding the floating lanterns. so my colleague asked a man behind us where he got his and he said he won the coupons in a competition. we were like, “huh?” then i saw 2 ladies in front of me holding some coupons, so i asked them where they got their coupons. they said they called in to a radio station and won them… we were quite worried that we can only get the lanterns by winning these coupons, coz we didn’t have any coupon! can’t we buy them off the counter? then the ladies in front of us turned to me and said i can have 1 of their coupons, coz they have enough. woo-hoo! anyway, one coupon is for 4 lanterns… later we found out that they do sell the lantern coupons, for aed 40 per coupon. meaning one lantern is aed 10 (about rm 8).

P1090875 a runaway, or rather, flyaway lantern…

after the hot-air balloon display, the dj announced that they will be opening the gates soon to let us go down to release our floating lanterns. he also specifically told us many times not to release our lanterns from the grandstand, coz it would be very dangerous… but there are still some who are stubborn/don’t understand english/boh-tak-chek (hokkien: never go to school). haiz…

P1090881 we were very excited that while waiting, we quickly prepared our lanterns by fixing the wax to the wire below. i also told my colleagues about the chinese custom of writing our wishes onto the lanterns, which resulted in a mad scramble looking for pens in our bags! hahaha…

P1090885 this is probably the closest i’d ever get to a horse racetrack!

389477_2607078370575_1063385369_2877389_1801153838_n 381142_2607081290648_1063385369_2877398_85031244_nlighting my first ever kong ming lantern!

P1090906 taking flight!

halfway through, they switched off the lights, which made the place even prettier. should’ve switched them off earlier lar! then my colleague’s boyfriend bought some more lanterns, so we had another chance to make our wishes! :D

P1090932 sending wishes to the heavens…

P1090946well, it’s not exactly like in “tangled”, but it was pretty enough for me… :)

Thursday, 1 December 2011

staff party '11

ok, this is also another long-overdue post - my company's staff party, which happened last september. the theme was "hollywood" and at first, they said to just dress up as our favourite star, actor or actresses.

this, in a way, can be very easy or very difficult. easy in a sense that we can just dress up in our best tux or gown, like in a red carpet event. but it's very difficult if we wish to be recognized for the star we're dressing up as. i think in the history of hollywood, there are very few stars with distinctive characteristic that is easily recognizable. i can only think of just a handful, like marilyn monroe, charlie chaplin, elizabeth taylor, elvis prestley and... that's it.

so i went to hr to give my feedback, that it's better to include characters as well. that way, our choice of costumes can be expanded further. so at the last minute (in the final week), hr agreed and changed the "definition" to the theme.

guess who i went as? ;)

at first i wanted to make my own costume, but my colleague found a costume rental place so i tagged along to see what they have. the adult size of the costume for the character i wanted is only for sale, not for rent. and it's only one piece of cloth with nothing else, for AED370 (≈ RM309). crazy... i won't even buy a piece of dress that i like for that price! then the shop girl said i can try the one for kids (with much assurance that it'll fit me), which is for rental at AED150 (≈ RM125), and comes with the full set of accessories (like the tie shown above).

if u still don't know who i went as, i was the boy who lived lar...

only me and 2 other colleagues from my department went dressed as a character. the rest of the company went in "red carpet" theme. anyway, here are some photos to share.

here's me manning my department's games booth. before the dinner starts, there's a segment where each department was given a "booth" for games and we had to sell tickets before the event to get people to come play our game. the game we chose were "guess the movie" (in-line with the "hollywood" theme) and we even gave away free popcorns! and no, i don't know what my colleague and i were sniggering about there...

as an added bonus, we even prepared this mug-shot thingy (dunno what's the actual name for this) free for anyone who stopped by our booth. i was the one who printed this out, joint up the pieces, stick them onto a foam board and cut it up! i had to do it twice, coz i got the hole for shrek's face too big. it's still too big the 2nd time, but slightly better than the first and i couldn't be bothered to do it a 3rd time. also, i was out of foam board and our printer ink was running dangerously low!

cam-whoring at the booth... no points for guessing that our "business" didn't do too well that night :P

each department had to prepare a performance too. sorry for the blur pic...

i suggested we do a number from "phantom of the opera" (again, in-line with the theme), with the song "masquerade". i feel it was an awesome idea, coz the other departments would surely do hot and sexy dances or dance to fast music etc, and ours would really stand out. too bad, my colleagues weren't very keen to take part and we had to literally force everyone to put each foot in front of the other. it's really that bad! so we got our act sorted out at the very last minute (an hour before the party, actually!) and only managed to do a very very short presentation. we were just getting started and the audience were only starting to anticipate a great performance from us, and then it ended! haha...

more cam-whoring... this is just part of my department actually. a few were missing, probably partying off somewhere with the free-flow booze, and some just didn't show up for the party just because they refused to dance! what wet blankets...

cool props prepared by the party committee... :D

best costumes of the night, roxy (of 1920's harlem) and zoro. both are from my department. so means i didn't win for best dressed, but i still had fun dressing up! :)

my department also won the 2nd runner up for departmental presentation, so at least our efforts paid off!

here's a final cam-whoring photo of me in closing... i love this costume so much! :D

Monday, 21 November 2011

addicted to prezi!

i came to know about prezi last week, when my gen-y gm (or so he claims!) requested us to do up a presentation using it. it's such a cool app!

so i've made up another presentation for my department's christmas party, and everyone loved it! hehehe... just wanna share it with everyone here (tho' u're NOT invited to the party! :P)

wait for it to load fully, hover your mouse over the word "more" to view it in full screen, and keep clicking > to advance to the next slide.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

del – agra – kul: my 2nd wonders of the world

as mentioned, it was just a short stay in the comfy and luxurious hotel. i was out of the hotel by 4am, dammit! that’s because i’m going to agra, a town next to delhi, and then had to be back at delhi the very same day to catch my night flight to my final destination, HOME! so the travel agent said that in order to do that, i have to start my journey to agra very early, coz the traffic condition can be quite unpredictable.

i think the driver the tour agent sent had a secret dream to be a formula 1 driver, coz he was driving like a crazy person the whole way! speeding, overtaking, swerving in and out, honking impatiently and worse of all, wanting to pick fights with other drivers! i was quite worried that i may not be able to make it back home in one piece that i didn’t dare doze off in the 5 hour journey…

once at agra, we picked up my guide, whose name had escaped me (sign of old age!) and we proceeded to my 2nd wonders of the world (the first being the angkor wat): taj mahal!

the driver brought us to the parking lot of the complex and my guide told me that that’s the furthest we can go by car. from there onwards, we had to either go on foot, or take one of the various vehicles there: tonga (a kind of horse-drawn carriage), the camel-drawn carriage, tuk-tuk or trishaw. as my package specified tonga, that’s what my guide and i rode in.

DSC_0435 i really pity the horse. very skinny, smelly and it’s very obvious that it has not been well-kept. life is indeed hard there, even for the animals. especially for the animals :’(

DSC_0440 the camels were pathetic looking too… :(

DSC_0442approaching the outer entrance to the complex

 DSC_0443the inner entrance to the complex… we’re there, but not quite there! my guide was explaining to me about the 11 small onion-shaped domes at the top, but i wasn’t really paying much attention, coz i was impatient to go inside!

DSC_0448the front view of the inner entrance…

DSC_0449first glimpse of the white-marbled taj… my guide told me to stand on the line on the floor, and i can see the perfect symmetry of the entrance with the taj inside!

DSC_0454 inside the gate, which is really a building by itself. i should’ve paid more attention to where i was standing to shoot this pic. now it’s not quite a perfect symmetry :(

DSC_0455 and then it’s there, right before my eyes…

DSC_0462but before i can proceed to get a closer look, my guide insisted that i have my picture taken on this bench first and then bore me with a long grandmother story of the background of the mausoleum. things like king shah jahan, his queen mumtaz, the construction process, the architects and artists, the reasons for the various side towers and buildings, the architecture bla bla bla… to learn more about the taj mahal, go read here

then only i realized that he’s not gonna go with me, but will let me explore the place by myself while he waited for me on this bench. hmp, so lazy! but i was glad to ditch him too, coz he can be a real bore! hehehe…

DSC_0468 of course, he did tell me where to go, what to see and where to take the best shots… took me dem long to take this shot, and as you can see from the position of the sprinkler/fountain faucets in the pond, it wasn’t taken from the very middle. that’s because there were so many blardy inconsiderate tourists who were busy posing and hogging the view!

 DSC_0481 before coming here, my indian colleagues told me that we have to remove our shoes before stepping onto the white marble floors. luckily my guide bought shoe covers for me at the ticket booth, coz it was raining earlier and i was quite apprehensive about walking around in my socks on the wet floor, or worse, go barefoot!

DSC_0479 some inscriptions and patterns on the walls…

DSC_0482 marble flowers…

DSC_0483the patterns on the walls were not painted on, because dye tends to fade with time. all the colours on the walls are actually gems and precious stones! i only remember the blue colour is lapis lazuli…

DSC_0493 view of the entrance from the taj…

after exploring the inner chambers of the taj (we’re not allowed to take photos inside, but there’s a replica of queen mumtaz’s [right in the middle] and shah jahan’s [off to the side] tombs in there) and the side buildings of the complex, i went to meet my guide and we left the place. then i found out that my package did not include a ride out and i would have to pay extra for it! *^&@&#$^&#$@

3 men came over to try to get my business by begging my guide to engage their service. but my guide told them it’s up to me and then asked me to choose between a tuk-tuk, a tonga or a trishaw.

DSC_0499 i chose the trishaw, coz i feel the trishaw paddler deserved my money the most, as it will be from his own effort. the tuk-tuk is motor-powered and the tonga operator is just abusing his horse for personal gains! also, the trishaw paddler looked the most kesian…

next, my guide instructed the driver to bring us to a shop selling authentic “stuff”, as my guide put it. earlier at the car park area of the taj mahal area, he stressed to me a few times not to buy from the many street peddlers there, as those are all fakes. i didn’t quite understand what are the “those” he was referring to, but soon realized it when i stepped into the shop.

DSC_0501 a demonstration of how the gems and precious stones were laid into the marbles…

apparently, the “fake stuff” my guide was talking about were marbles! here at the shop, i was shown “authentic” marble furniture and other decorative stuff, with an explanation of how to spot a real marble from a fake one. as if i’d wanna buy a huge and heavy marble dining table that seats 12 people while on holiday! *rolls eyes* and when my guide saw that i only bought 2 tiny marble fridge magnets, he was clearly disappointed. and we all know why!

DSC_0504 next, we went to visit the agra fort just opposite the river from taj mahal. read all about it here

DSC_0525 it was said that nearing the end of his life, shah jahan was imprisoned by his son (who has overtaken the throne after killing the crown prince, shah jahan’s eldest son) in this fort, and this was the balcony from where shah jahan would look out towards the taj mahal everyday, which holds the remains of his beloved queen mumtaz

DSC_0523 view from the chamber of shah jahan’s youngest daughter, which is right next to the chamber he was imprisoned in. the reason their chambers are next to each other was because the king (the son who deserved to be lightning-struck) wanted his sister to care for their father

DSC_0526 some similarities with taj mahal, as parts of the fort were built by shah jahan, who prefers white marbles to red bricks

DSC_0529 it’s a huge complex but as i’ve seen what i’ve come to agra to see and also i was really worried if i’d be able to make it back on time to delhi for my flight, i wasn’t really interested in exploring every nook and cranny of this fort

DSC_0534the journey back to delhi was jam crazy!

DSC_0537 on the way back, we made a stop at fatehpur sikri, as part of my tour itinerary. but as it has started raining again, the guide asked if i wanna go in coz there aren’t any shelter in there, just a huge open space complex. i said no, coz it’s just a lesser-known unesco world heritage site that i’ve never even heard about before i came. so we just dashed out from the car to snap this photo and back into the car! and the driver didn’t even park the car, coz the traffic was jam like mad outside. the car was just a few meters ahead from where we got off!

DSC_0543 on the drive back to delhi, the driver said i had to take a picture of this mosque, which was built as a replica of the taj mahal. not that i care, but he purposely slowed down the car for me to snap it, so had to oblige lar… :P

DSC_0545 having checked out of the hotel at such an ungodly hour, i only had some oreos biscuits with plain water for breakfast and i was nearly dying of hunger by 2pm, when the driver turned into this roadside makan place. it’s obviously an establishment for tourists and travelers like me, coz there are shops selling trinkets and stuff at the side, something like those roadside food courts that some of the express busses turned into back home. i contemplated on getting a kamasutra book for my brother from one of the stalls there, but decided not to in case the customs officer wanna check my bag!

DSC_0548 not really liking the idea of eating food from a road side establishment but not having much choice about it, i took my chance with a chicken thali, remembering how good they were in pokhara. but obviously they’re not the same thing… didn’t really finish it. luckily it didn’t do anything weird to my stomach

DSC_0550 made it to indra gandhi international airport in good time at about 6pm (my flight was at 9.55pm) and this was my last meal in india: mc donald’s! so obvious that i’m done being adventurous with food, huh?

205994_2189583613467_1063385369_2564826_7318654_n touched down in lcct at 6am the next morning, exhausted and in serious need of a shower! here’s a pic i posted on my fb wall…

so, this concludes my dxb–ktm–del–kul holiday series! *phew* took me long enough to post everything up… sorry again for stretching them over nearly 3 months. now i can go on and post about something else. and also looking forward to my 3rd wonders of the world holiday next year! ;)